SciNow: Multimodal Educational Resources
The necessity for this project was identified as a response to declining levels of science engagement, academic success and literacy observed in New Zealand secondary science education (OECD, 2016). As international advancements in sciences and technology create shifts in the current economic landscape, increasing importance is being placed on knowledge-intensive industries. This changed weighting of industry contributions to economic prosperity creates a simultaneous change in future workforce skill requirements (Gilbert & Bull, 2013). With the importance of education in long-term social and economic prosperity being long acknowledged, the changing economic climate intensifies the urgent need to address New Zealand’s declining science engagement and academic success. While the most significant facets of educational operations lie in education pedagogy and policy, the wide range of factors involved in educational outcomes yield expansive opportunities for potential innovations and commercialisation in the education sector. The opportunity for this project was derived from identifying the elements that contribute to these challenges, and isolating a gap in the market of science education resources. The purpose of this project was to research this potential market gap, as well as identifying how to appeal to it. This led to the proposal for the SciNow multimodal resource database, a resource database designed to provide engaging lesson and study materials to science students and teachers with an emphasis on real-life application of content. Through utilising the concept of multimodality, the database design proposes offering materials through ranging modes of communication to increase appeal to varying student learning preferences (Jewitt, 2008). The overall intention for the SciNow database is to raise attractiveness of science education by making it more interesting and relevant to students, thereby positively affecting educational outcomes and in turn leading to economic benefits in the form of a more ideally skilled workforce. While initial investigation focused on creating a business model for commercialising the SciNow resource database, this intention was adjusted in response to literature reviews revealing the significant performance gap between high and low achievers in science education (Education Review, 2016). In addition to New Zealand exhibiting one of the largest performance gaps in the OECD, concerns are exacerbated by the lowest performing population’s overrepresentation of Maori and Pasifika students and students from low socioeconomic backgrounds (OECD, 2015). In response to the level of inequality in science education, the SciNow proposal was adjusted to be provided to all students and teachers nationwide for free. The methodology implemented in this project was of a qualitative nature (Morgan, 1997). Interviews were conducted with secondary science teachers and students in which questioning focused on experiences with science education, including education resource availability and provision. Further focus groups were held with university students from wide-ranging backgrounds to gather reflective insight into experiences with science in school and in subsequent life. The key findings indicated a desire for improved resource availability and quality, responding favourably to the proposition of the SciNow resource database. Further findings validated the proposed use of multimodality for engagement and focus on real-life content application. Considering research findings, literature reviews, and the decision to provide the service freely, a flexible business model and case for investment is proposed and outlined in a strategic assessment business case. This business case proposes a three-phase process of development and implementation, influenced by the lean start-up business model. This three-phased plan begins with further research and subsequent development of a prototype as a minimum viable product. Following development, the prototype will then undergo testing and enhancement through feedback analysis, followed finally by expansion of the prototype to encompass the full database spectrum. The initial governing body will be composed of a core working group. Upon formation of a charitable trust, this core working group will evolve into an advisory board to act alongside the more commercially focused charitable trust board. Key implications derived from this project are dual. In part, the project research emphasises the necessity for the education sector to consider more deep-rooted changes in the New Zealand education system (Bull, Gilbert, Barwick, Hipkins, & Baker, 2010). Significant changes are needed to truly optimise New Zealand science education, and provision of a resource database can only accommodate educational challenges, not fix them. However, the research and business case demonstrate that execution of the SciNow proposal is feasible, with the intended research and development crucial in maximising potential benefit of the service. Upon completion of this project, further work is intended to bring the SciNow concept to fruition.